With COVID Cases on the rise again, and now 3 different COVID variants identified, COVID prevention and management is a primary focus of the Infection Preventionist (IP). However, COVID is only one of many infection related issues challenging our IP professionals today. Flu and cold season is underway, long term care visitation is now fully open, the vaccine mandates are still being challenged, and new multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs) are being identified more frequently than expected. With all of these potential clinical risks to confront, what does a day in the life of an effective IP look like?
One of the most critical daily functions of the effective IP is staff training. Staffing challenges including increased turnover and agency use, and decreased longevity/less experienced staff create the need for constant education and observation of staff on infection control topics. From hand hygiene and correct infection prevention procedure techniques, to following isolation precautions and using PPE correctly, the IP is the key resource for facility staff on preventing infections within the facility. Creativity in developing teaching methods can make the difference in whether or not a staff member fully understands what needs to be done, and remembers it going forward.
To effectively monitor for and address infections in the facility, a strong infection tracking and trending process must be in place. This involves more than totaling up the number and type of infections at the end of the month. The successful IP is looking at infection reports daily, and identifying possible outbreaks at the first sign of a trend. Two UTIs on the same resident assignment within 1 week might indicate the need for quick peri-care observations for all the staff recently assigned to those residents. Two cases of respiratory infections on different ends of a hallway might indicate the need to look at dining room or activity seating of residents to identify how it is spreading. The effective IP is an “ID”, an “Infection Detective” and problem solver.
As with all aspects of quality care, effective communication is essential. The successful IP makes sure that the necessary infection information is communicated timely to those that need to know: the residents and families; the staff; the MD/APRN; and when indicated, the local and state health departments. Knowing what and who to report to can make the difference between a widespread vs. a well-contained outbreak. It also promotes confidence in the facility when everyone involved is kept informed.
A day in the life of an effective IP is a very busy one, but it is also very rewarding when day-to-day diligence produces successful results. Learn more tips and strategies for successful IP program when you join other Infection Preventionists across the country for the new webinar series “The Proficient Infection Preventionist” beginning January 18th, 2022.